Senior School

Headmaster since 2007, Michael Punt MA MSc PGCE (40s), a physicist who lives on site with his wife Gill and their three sons, all of whom attend the school – a fact that many parents say ‘keeps him in tune with pupils’ and parents’ experiences of Chigwell.’

His calm and positive influence is palpable throughout the school, with parents describing him as ‘approachable’, ‘well-liked’ and ‘respected’. In fact, many were swayed against the local competition purely on the basis of meeting him. ‘He doesn’t just talk at you in some grand hall – he chats with you in a relaxed way and seems to know exactly what you want to know,’ said one.

Pupils also speak enthusiastically about him. ‘He knows every one of us, as well as taking an interest in us,’ one pupil told us. Not for him a chief executive type headship, but rather a personal touch that’s helped by the size of the school and the fact that he and colleagues interview every child that comes here. Mainly, though, it seems to be down to his hands-on approach – he teaches pupils, does a lot of mock interviews and is often seen around the school. The week before our visit, he’d had all the prefects round for a meal and he eats regularly with the boarders.

Having grown up in nearby Brentwood, he did his degree at Oxford and his masters at Imperial, then worked at St Dunstan’s College as a physics teacher, working his way up to head of year and head of physics, after which he did a stint at The Perse School, Cambridge, as deputy head (academic) where he continued to climb the ranks until moving to Chigwell.

The Headmaster doesn’t just talk at you in some grand hall – he chats with you in a relaxed way and seems to know exactly what you want to know.

Parent

Academic Matters

Excellent results, which have risen steadily – 80 per cent of GCSE grades were A*-A/9-7 in 2019 - up on the previous year.

Head puts this down to pupils’ positive and conscientious attitude to learning and an excellent relationship with teachers, both points which the latest ISI inspection praised. ‘I was amazed when my son emailed teachers about his essay during half term and got detailed feedback the same day, but that’s how it is here,’ said a parent. The tone of the communication seems to be spot on, too. ‘In many schools, it’s either too matey or terribly stand-offish, but they seem to have got the balance just right here,’ said one parent. Lessons interactive and busy, with plenty of IT embedded across all subjects – and a pilot of tablet-embedded learning going on in years 9 and 12 when we visited. ‘We’ll see how it goes and may well expand it in future,’ says head.

Our View

A happy, nurturing and busy school with a genuinely family feel and an emphasis on creating caring all-rounders.

Academically, pupils are put through their paces, but it all seems to be done in such a civilised and pleasant manner that you’re far more likely to hear pupils talk about opportunities and prospects than pressure and stress. ‘Anyone that wants to do well will do well here,’ said one student, ‘and I can’t think of a nicer place to succeed.’

Pre Prep and Junior School

The Heads

Since 2016, Andrew Stubbs BA PGCE, previously Deputy Head of Junior School, who joined the school in 2005. He has a History degree from Sheffield.

Head of Pre Prep is Evelyn Gibbs PA, PARICS, PGCE.

Previously acting head in St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Chingford. Did her degree in history, then became a chartered surveyor, retraining as a teacher, after which she worked in the state sector, teaching year 6s and under, before moving into educational leadership. A friendly and softly-spoken woman, she doesn’t have an obvious air of leadership, but make no mistake – she is largely responsible for the pre-prep having hit the ground running and staff, pupils and parents praise her for achieving the ‘perfect balance of making the children feel nurtured, whilst also getting them academically ready for the junior school.’ Lives locally with her husband, and has two grown-up children.

Feeling cheerful and nurtured really matters here and the creative displays and smiling faces prove it.

The Good Schools Guide

Our View

Less than a stone’s throw from the senior school, and set on the main school site, the Junior School is integral to the Chigwell community and adds to the all-pervading family feel. Its educational philosophy, academic and pastoral structures are the same as those in the Senior School, supporting the school’s aim to ‘provide a consistent approach to education throughout the child’s school career’. Plenty of joint activities bring juniors and seniors together, easing the passage through the school.

Despite pre-prep being separate, Mrs Gibbs works very hard to make sure it is part of the bigger school, bringing juniors over to read to the children, organising joint assemblies and events and running a buddy-system, just to name a few initiatives,’ added one parent. This pre-prep, which takes 4 to 7-year-olds, is set in a stunning, state-of-the-art, purpose built building a few minutes’ walk from the junior school – more of which later.

Back in the junior school, expect academic rigour at the core, so that children leave well-equipped at 13 to go into the senior school, but with an emphasis on fun in learning, with interactive, interesting lessons by well-qualified teachers that the pupils describe as ‘firm but fair’.

A culture of kindness – plus a behaviour log which tracks any emerging patterns – helps prevent bullying. School council meets fortnightly.

Over in the pre-prep, which is located behind a coded gate, life is rather more lively, as you might imagine. But the extremely well-thought-of head keeps the 40 pupils in each of the three years (two forms in each) in check in a manner that the rest of the teaching staff mirror – that is, never shouting and with a nurturing and soothing manner, but with clear boundaries and expectations. ‘I love coming to school. It’s nearly as good as being at home,’ one pupil said. The building itself is spectacular, both inside and out, with a large welcoming foyer.

Feeling cheerful and nurtured really matters here and the creative displays and smiling faces prove it. Once you get through to juniors, though, it’s not for the fainthearted, but there’s plenty of monitoring and help to make sure nobody gets left behind – there are even lessons on how to think constructively. This is a school where minds can and do grow in the widest sense possible and it all happens in a warm atmosphere where a happy mix of ages and cultures work together harmoniously and develop a genuine love of learning.